Conversations On The Impacts Of Private Universities On Public Universities In Africa (2)
By Toyin Falola
Of all the superstructures that hold the evolution and development of a society, the education sector accounts for a wholesome characterisation of civilisations and cultures. This was the basis of the conference convened by the University of Texas at Austin, funded by the Carnegie Corporation. The overall goal is to redefine the academic culture in Africa.
With a constellation of scholars—the very best of them in their various fields—from five African countries converging on the main campus of the Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, to discuss or rather, debate issues revolving around the resuscitation of this sector, no talisman is required to project how dire the condition of this sector is in Africa. Given the robust debates and depth of analyses that followed the opening of the “August” conference, it would not be wrong to assume that the two-day event could have as well ended after the first day.
If there were to be any form of linkages and cooperation between the academic/intelligentsia community, the states, and industries in Africa, this conference provided one of the ready avenues for the states to begin a rethink of the purpose of education in the continent. Also, if the various messages of the conference were to be properly harnessed, it would fall back to the issue of the relationship between the town and the gown. As one of the participants asked, what are the national interests of these states and the direction of their educational systems and structures? Or, to put it differently, what are the ground norms governing the existence and proliferation of these institutions? These were the frames of thought that agitated the minds of seasoned scholars and administrators with great passion at the conference, which began at the convener’s lodge even before the official opening of the event.
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In his opening lecture, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, the amiable Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, implicitly took this discussion further to several cogent issues, ironing out the many contours that prevail on this important question. From quality assurance, the synergy between private and public universities, impact of both institutions on each other and the society, funding and administration of both institutions, possible ways of improvement, and a variety of other issues, the professor of botany brought together and shared his seasoned experience with the audience. Subsequent panels built on this discussion with insightful inputs and peculiarities from different countries and experiences.
From a gathering that brought together the likes of Professors Jibrin Ibrahim, Dele Ashiru, Jimi Agbaje, Femi Mimiko, Abdul Rasheed Na’Allah, Sati Fwatshak, Biodun Ogunyemi, Ayo Olukotun, Jide Owoeye and countless of others who have doubled in the academic matrix as scholars and administrators, one cannot expect less than an insightful and intellectually stimulating session. The contributions of these scholars made it clear that even though funding is a recurrent albatross on the university system in Africa, the available capacity of these institutions has not been closely adapted and utilised for optimum performance within the academic community or the general public. This goes further into the area of autonomy, where they reiterated the basic value of this existential threat to the sector’s development. By autonomy, they brought to the fore the composition of these universities’ councils, the apportionment of staff and principal officers, admission of students, programs design, and the general administration of the institutions. The position remains that if the university system in the continent is left to the realm of politicisation and mediocrity, it will remain an industrial reproduction and recycling of a rotten system.
It is hard to pinpoint the most important aspect of the discussion of the day in a short piece like this because the entire event comprises stimulating ideas, proposals, and models. Nonetheless, the debate about the role of ASUU in the university system in Nigeria deserves adumbrating. As the nucleus of the system in the country, the body is not new to controversies, and, at the same time, it is not without its many challenges. The conference brought this to light as the audience became better informed and were reminded of its relevance and impact on the system. One of the interesting panels on the second day of the event was on unionism in the system. Professor Owoeye of Lead City University, Ibadan, made a remarkable parallel between this body and university proprietors in the private universities, a compelling point that cannot be ignored but is rarely considered.
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In this light, ASUU is described as the soul of the university system in Nigeria, without which its detractors would have taken the role of undertakers, burying the academic community in the abyss of the anti-intellectual inclination and paradigm of the state. The successes of the body in areas of improving the quality of education and research in the state and holding government accountable to its responsibility, particularly as noted in Section 18(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, were highlighted in the areas of TETFund, Need-for-Assessment and other deliverables that have characterised the activities of the body since its inception. Without doubting the importance of this body to the university system and the education sector generally in the country, participants also hoped that its operational model could be reviewed for more pragmatic engagement with the state, other bodies in the university system and the university authorities to achieve optimum performance.
According to Professor Sati Fwashak, the question of whether private universities are relevant to the education terrain of African states should not even be contemplated; rather, the focus should be on how to make them better to turn the tide of what he referred to as “compromised access and inaccessible access.” This was what drew Professor Mimiko into the discussion, as he relates it to the operational model of these institutions to attract the best in the society in terms of staffing and student composition. In addition, various speakers from the opening lecture given by Professor Ogundipe suggested how this could be achieved, focusing on broadening the spectrum of their partnership with public universities. Students and staff exchange, joint committees, scholarships, collaborative research, and other areas that border on global best practices were emphasised in these dynamics.
Following this were country reports from Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, and Nigeria in which Professors Sati Fwashak (Nigeria), Samuel Oloruntoba (South Africa), Peter Wekesa (Kenya) and Abeku Blankson (Ghana), providing the audience with relevant statistics and practices from the assessment of the education climate in their various countries. The issues are more or less the same, and the challenges reflect one another. This implies that there are many areas in which these countries could learn from one another to develop what could be referred to as the education/knowledge industry if taken together from the position of the participants. Referring to the education/knowledge industry alludes to a model of administration that is business-inclined and which encompasses resource management, resource development, capacity building, flexibility, goal setting and purpose-driven dynamics. Even though a lot needs to be done in these areas in the private universities, participants believed that public universities would have to learn this model from them to survive the anachronistic landscape that drives the anti-intellectual culture of states in Africa.
With the view that “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” raised by Dr Bola Dauda, participants debunked the pedestrian view that tuition is not paid in public universities. In a way, this argument further justified the seemingly exorbitant rate charged by private-owned universities, considering that the government spends an average of about 750,000 naira on each student in these public institutions annually. This is even at a time when the education sector only accounts for a mere five to six per cent of the country’s annual budget. The South African case is even peculiar in the face of the relics of its apartheid past, in which the Black population are still struggling to access higher education. Similarly, other countries accessed in the program still operate within their colonial past, as the system continues to produce students for colonial social needs and demands that are obsolete and in need of a serious rejig.
From this perspective, the convener and other participants proposed the possible future of higher education in Africa. Citing the instance of Nigerian hip-hop artists like Davido and how the entertainment industry is globally representing and exporting Nigeria, he noted his view on the promotion of outside class/curriculum talent among students in these institutions. Other areas brought to the fore in this matrix include fashion, coding, and information technology. Attention to this area is even more essential when considering the weak synergy between the state’s economy in Africa and the education system, which has led to the ongoing production of unemployed and underemployed graduates. However, due to lack of adequate time, the compelling point raised by Professor Olukoya Ogen on ICT in the United States, including coding and new models, which has the potential of spreading to various countries in Africa, was not adequately expressed.
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Nevertheless, since the future of humanity lies in data and information technology, this is one of the areas to explore to bridge the gap between the town and the gown in Africa. It appears that such a model is already springing up in places like Ghana with the Ghana Communication Technology University and informally in various locations in Nigeria. Undoubtedly, harnessing global best practices into their operations would go a long way in securing Africa, if not for the present century, then the next. In this regard, the First Technical University, Ibadan, is currently epitomising the public-private partnership model. In his presentation, the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Ayobami Salami, educated the audience about the possibility of having different private interests in a university, with each group or individual investing in the faculty and research areas that interest them within the governing rules of the institution. If properly designed to avoid conflicting interests and the usual politicking in the current university system, this is a promising model that speaks to the business approach many of the participants emphasised.
As the conference progressed into the second day, more of these rigorous ideas and in-depth debates continued with panel discussions about the reformation of the public university’s system after the convener declared the program open . Leading the discussion, Dr Hannah Muzee shared the dynamic experience of an academic from Uganda and South Africa, where she articulated the limitations in the system, challenges of reform and models of surmounting these gaps through public-private partnerships, for instance, and what she described as academic capitalism. During the panels, speakers synthesised their discussions around professionalism in the academic culture and community for optimum performance. This included the establishment of higher institutions of learning, the structure of management and administration of these institutions, recruitment process, community service, ethnicisation of the university system, archaic pedagogical methods of teaching and research, unionism and management engagement, assessment of lecturers by students, the democratisation of the management process, the media and the dissemination of information about innovative developments in the intellectual community, particularly in the higher institution of learning, and other issues too broad to list out but are intertwined largely within the preceding frames.
Continuing the conversation, Professor Sifawa from Sokoto State University lamented what he described as the civil service mentality in the education system. This position illuminated the recruitment process and system within the academic community, and other issues related to the remuneration of (academic) staff, the higher institutions of learning as causes rather than value centres (in the words of Professor Francis Egbokhare), the relationship between the town and the gown, and many more, delving deeper into the entire academic culture of teaching, administration, and research. The community seldom attracts the best brains to impact quality into the general fabric of society. Following this cancerous paradigm, participants recommended that the culture of mentorship be revived, and students with such capacity should be encouraged to join the community. This is even more so in the face of the wide-range shortage of staff in many of the public universities, which is made worse by ageing, lack of diversity in staffing (especially in the areas of gender and ethnicity), the exploding ratio of lecturers to students, and other related issues that put pressure on the existing capacity of departments and faculties for viable knowledge production.
Still within this understanding for reformation is the equal remuneration model, which has been argued not to encourage or reward productivity by adopting a blanket model. This was brought to light on the first day of the conference by Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Olufemi Mimiko, and became reflective in other discussions on the second day, with effect on the emerging thought in the academic community on the extent of the paradigm shift required in the system for it to function to benefit the society in tandem with global best practices. According to the argument, the current system promotes academic laziness in the community, impacting negatively teaching methods and the recurring devastating state of town-gown relations. Professor Ya’u, for instance, followed this logic up when he highlighted the inability of these institutions to deliver programs and innovative panacea to the peculiar problems of their constituencies, which starts from their host community to the state and the region.
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Academics seldom see their responsibility as a call to duty and service for the public good and genuine reinvention of the society, but rather as a source of livelihood, just as in other professions. However, various participants bemoaned this culture as they counselled on reformation. Taking this further, Professor Oluyemisi Obilade, among other participants, argued that specialised institutions should refocus their priorities to manifest the particular purpose they have been established as “specialised institutions.” This sparked a debate on why these institutions exist in the first place. For instance, why do we need specialised institutions of higher learning focusing on technological development and innovations, agricultural productions and scientific discoveries, medical innovations, oil and gas development, education and teachers’ training, and many more, when these could be factored into the existing general structure of the universities, as in faculties and colleges? The answer to this lies in the ability of these institutions to regulate their activities in line with their peculiar frame of objectives and service to the community without interference in an encouraging space that encourages research and teaching in these fields. However, this argument is limited by the current state of regulation of these entities, as well as the fact that despite the presence of agricultural institutes, colleges, and institutions in the country supposedly serving as the botanical and experimental farms of the state, many agricultural consumables still come from outside of its shores.
Among other things, it was concluded that for a specialised institution, a specialised regulatory body is required with adequate funding for research and teaching. Emphasising the above, Professor Obilade insisted that there must be returns on investments in the specialised institutions. This simply means that the staff of the institutions have to be productive and responsive to their immediate environment and the global market of knowledge and innovation. Also, the government and management of the institutions must provide incentives for this paradigm shift that impede them from the “civil service” mentality that often binds them to (administrative) distractions. Certainly, investors have a role in restoring these institutions to their proper place in society. During the session on this subject, it was made known that investors could partner with institutions to produce innovative ideas that will provide marketable solutions to the myriads of challenges in the country. Notably, some of the solutions have been imported from foreign countries, putting existential strain on the country’s economy. It is not hard to see how this relates to the First Technical University model and the business-oriented approach to the above education system.
Going by the administrative structure of these higher institutions of learning encoded in the various acts establishing them, these approaches have always been the establishing rule. When followed to the latter, items (m) and (n) in Section 3 of the 1978 University of Nigeria Decree allow university authorities to manage the institution’s resources, including prudent investment of the resources for viable returns to its coffers. The tone sets the motion for the administrators to access loans, implying partnership with investors for the exploration and execution of innovative ideas. In contrast to this expectation, and probably given the social condition of the Nigerian state in which the academic environment operates, such partnership has only largely been explored in building more physical structures that continue to reproduce the deficiencies of the state. As the participants observed, there is an urgent need for concerted efforts towards staff training and retraining, quality teaching and research output, flexible curriculum, recruitment of staff, admission of students, social relationship within the community, and the relationship among the communities. This goes into the relationship between the private and public universities, specialised institutions and universities, relationship with the media, engagement with donors and other stakeholders in the state’s educational sector.
Professor Olaopa referred to all of these as development approaches to teaching and research. The erudite technocrat and professor of Public Administration, and other participants, particularly during the session on Unionism in Public Universities: Impacts and Changes, deepened this intervention further into the discourse of unionism and the wider relationship within different (governing) organs in the system. While some participants argued that university administration is left to academics, giving them academic autonomy/independence with the possibility that even the pro-chancellor belongs to this community, it was further observed that the current relationship between the vice-chancellors, who are often appointed from a pool of seasoned academics, and the unions within the community has not been good because they seemingly belong to the same cult.
The issues surrounding this are complex and yet multi-layered. Some aspects mentioned by participants at the conference included the political process that often dominates the process of appointing vice-chancellors and the over-militarisation of the union bodies. In its response, ASUU reiterated its position that the alleged militarist posture of the union has only resulted as the last option when all other channels of diplomatic approach had been exhausted in years of fruitless negotiation with the authorities. On this, Professor Ogunyemi called for a situation where the government reverts to the union in the face of difficulties in reaching an agreement to avert the recurrence of strike action that does not benefit anyone. Professor Mimiko, who had a passionate encounter with the body during his tenure as the Vice-Chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, and whose articulated view of the system was animated in the account of his stewardship in that position published by Pan-African University Press, counselled that union bodies in public universities should avoid reaching agreements that are not feasible with the government. ASUU was also advised on the discipline of its erring members and to take into cognisance their welfare in its operations.
On a grander level, discussions at the two-day events focused on the need to reinvent higher institutions of learning in Africa towards deeper integration into the evolving global community of practice, state, and industry. The stimulating event was brought to a close by the convener, who highlighted significant features of the conference after discussing the experiences and views of students. There is no doubt that all participants at the conference were enriched in one way or the other as discussions were opened up for long-term consideration and execution at various levels.
A huge congratulation to the Carnegie Foundation, University of Texas, at Austin, Babcock University, the convener, and participants from five African countries on the success of this regional gathering on the reinvention of the educational system in Africa.
Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Who Needs Counseling In Nigeria?
By Leo Igwe
In January, I registered for a professional course in counseling at the Attitude Development Institute (ADI) in Lagos. After my doctoral program in religious studies, I thought I was done doing any other academic course. But I was mistaken. I recently noticed that something was missing in my academic and learning accessories. And I needed to rectify it. So I started this professional diploma program. I embarked on this course in my quest for a more competent way to assist people who contact me for help and support. Many contact me saying that they are tired of life and could not find anything meaningful to do or to earn a living. Many attribute their problems to ‘village people’, witches and wizards, generational curses, evil spirits, jinns, demonic attacks, etc. Many attribute their failures, setbacks and misfortunes to juju or harmful magic. I decided to do this diploma in counseling because I felt that something was lacking in my knowledge and understanding of human beings and human problems.
Last year, a lecturer on guidance and counseling at a college of agriculture in Ebonyi state invited me to come and talk to some of his students. Some of the students wanted to do money rituals and he was worried. This lecturer asked me to come and persuade them against engaging in this futile and criminal venture. But how could I do this professionally and effectively?
I wondered what else to tell these students apart from what I had repeatedly said in the past. That money ritual was a superstition, and the belief had no basis in reason or reality. But will that help? Will that be enough? Will the students be persuaded by that proposition? I asked. I felt that telling them that ritual money was a myth would likely be an exercise in futility. It would likely be inadequate and would not yield effective results. I felt that young people needed a more structured way to get them to change these thoughts and behavior. Anyway, I went to that college of education and met with some students and spent time talking to them, advising and persuading them not to indulge in money rituals. I urged them to try and complete their education and then seek out other evidence-based ways of making money. I do not know if my talk yielded any positive results.
Before and after this incident I encountered many who strongly believed in ritual money, and who, given the opportunity could kill, or use human body parts for rituals. Last year, someone contacted me from Kwara state. He inquired how he could do money rituals. I offered similar advice. Some people have contacted me seeking some other forms of help and support. Someone called from Imo state asking how he could stop gambling. That it was ruining his business and that his friends were pointing accusing fingers at his landlady. They said the woman was a witch and was responsible for his dwindling fortune. I offered him some words of advice. Also, in advocating against witch persecution, I have come across people who had anxiety, and mental and emotional disorders but who attribute these psychological problems and other existential challenges to witchcraft. I have been looking for competent ways to manage witchcraft believers and suspecters. I have been searching for more professional ways to support traumatized victims and survivors. I have been seeking a skillful mechanism to empower, guide and enable entertainers of witchcraft fears and sufferers of witch persecution to heal, recover and take control of their lives.
Beyond that, there are personal reasons. I am the first son in my family. I started dealing with family issues at a very young age without any knowledge of human psychology. I was socialized to help my younger brothers and lead even when I barely knew my left from my right. I was made to manage and resolve family-related issues even when I was a child with barely an understanding of how life worked. I was not self-aware or socially aware. I did not know human personalities and temperaments. I was not allowed to grow like every other child. I was pressured to behave like the first son, the deputy head of the family, and to intervene in family issues including my parents’ marital issues. Even now my father has passed away, I manage family issues and deal with members with personality disorders and untreated traumas, including my siblings who engage in micro/transferred aggressions and other negative behaviors rooted in childhood experiences. They intentionally make life miserable for me; they complicate matters to settle childhood scores, to punish or deal with me for some real or imagined privilege that they thought I had enjoyed as a first son.
In addition, I started teaching at 17 years, I taught at a local seminary and helped in nurturing children. I did not know children and educational psychology. It was like a child teaching children. It was while studying for my bachelor’s in philosophy that I did some psychology courses. I learned about Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Ivan Pavlov and their explanations of human behavior. But it was all theory. Then my focus was on getting good grades and passing examinations, not applying the knowledge to real life and issues. In the course of my humanist work and campaign, I have come across people suffering from religious trauma, and victims of religious oppression and persecution.
I would like to offer them effective help and support. As a humanist celebrant, I help families that are grieving, couples who are getting married, or those celebrating the arrival of a new baby. To provide effective help and services, I realized that I needed some professional training in counseling. I searched online and got some information about one Counseling Association of Nigeria. I contacted them and registered. But I realized that the focus was mainly on guidance and counseling in schools. That is important. But that was not what I wanted. My impression was that the association was mainly for teachers and lecturers. I needed some training that could qualify me as a professional counselor. I went online and saw some information about two counseling institutes in Lagos. They offer professional training.
One is in Ikeja, which is the ADI, and the other is in Victoria Island. I spoke to some counselors and one recommended ADI. After some telephone conversations and WhatsApp exchanges with the director of the Institute, I enrolled in its diploma class. The classes are held once every week. I joined the second week. After my first class, I realized that I was in the right place and that the program that they offered was what I was looking for. It was a twelve-week program, very intense. The courses included the foundations of counseling, counseling theories, and skills, children/teenage counseling, marriage/family counseling, and crisis/trauma counseling. Some of the courses focused on Christian counseling, grief counseling, sex therapy, and mental health. When I started I was worried that the lectures would be bland, another monotonous exercise in issuing handouts, but they were not. The lectures were interesting. And the lecturers were engaging and entertaining. They were very articulate and used so many examples to illustrate their points. The program occasioned some intellectual shocks and dissonance. It has helped me to correct some misconceptions about counseling and counselors. First I realized the importance of counseling and counselors. Look, human beings suffer both physical and emotional injuries. Both injuries are treatable. While medical doctors help treat physical wounds, counselors as therapists help treat emotional and psychological injuries. Again, counseling is widely understood to mean advice. We were told several times that counselors were not advisers. They do not advise their clients. A foremost counselor, Irvin Yalom whose book, Love’s Executioner, we reviewed throughout the course said the task of a counselor was to make himself or herself obsolete. Yes, it is tacitly saying that for the counselee to live, the counselor must die. He noted that the counselor’s role was to help the client take responsibility for making himself or herself better. Instead of advising, counselors support counselees to take control of their healing and living.
Again, throughout the program, the lecturers made it clear that one of the characteristics of a good counselor was listening. A counselor must be a good listener. He or she must have good listening skills. Also, counseling was not meant for some people, some psychologically troubled and maladjusted people. Instead, the lecturers made it clear that counseling was for everyone, for both the counselors and the counselees. In the course of the lectures I kept flashing back and recalling so many people that I have met in life who needed counseling. Everyone is grappling with some trauma or emotional issue at one time or the other. They encouraged the trainees to go for counseling. Each class was indirectly an exercise in group counseling and therapy because the classes provided opportunities for members to pour it out, to draw from their life, work, and family experiences in discussing the topics.
Yes, I realized that everybody needed counseling. And nothing illustrated the need better than a particular incident that happened during the program. Due to some miscommunication, one of the counselors managing the program communicated the wrong date for the class graduation to the management. When she came and informed the class, she was told that she communicated the wrong date. And this counselor became furious(meanwhile her name is also Fu…something). Discussions became quite heated and tense because she continued to insist that she communicated the correct date. The room became very noisy and rowdy because some people were trying to correct her but she refused. At some point, a member of this class set that calls itself, Ignite, raised her voice. She is in this class of women with a huge and imposing stature, looked quiet from the outside, and could be mistaken as phlegmatic. She said emphatically while pointing her five fingers at this counselor and swinging the hand up and down: “You are not listening”, “You are not listening”. At that point, the counselor tried to calm down. A senior management colleague intervened and urged the counselor to leave the room. As soon as she left, another class member said: “She needs counseling”. And some class members chuckled.
So, everybody needs counseling in Nigeria.
Igwe,PhD, is a trainee counselor at the Attitude Development Institute, Lagos.
Professors On INEC’s Will (4)
By Tony Afejuku
These past three weeks have been three supreme weeks of supreme value to all of us who have been gluing ourselves to this column for the right reasons: No room for lying; no room for deceits; no room for propaganda; no room for vanity. No room, no room, no room for what should not be here. Thoughts of the streams, thoughts of the spheres, music of the streams, music of the spheres enhance the column in diverse ways.
Our debaters for the past three weeks have demonstrated this. Each of the professors (all of them, in fact) has demonstrated this in the geometry of their presentations, in the minds of their geo-biographies, in the arithmetic of their convictions and persuasions. They in varying degrees did not support the will of INEC in the presidential election, even though the INEC chair is one of them, a fellow professor in the sphere of the humanities. In going over the longitude and latitude of the flow of our professors, of our debating professors, in their authentic and responsible sphere of spheres the clarity and precision of the geo-biography and nature of patience moved towards me. This may not be the right way of putting it, but I found and still find each debater to be a patient debater. Goodness! How a patiently patient listener and presider over the debate Professor Olu Obafemi was/is! The rhetoric of his ears or of his eyes or of his tongue was/is the rhetoric of the sage. If I imagined this, I imagined it well. His rhetoric was/is not the creation of this recorder, but it is the rhetoric of the music of the shaping of the debate and the words of the debaters who like him are fellow writers and creators.
Now I present to our readers the summation of Professor Olu Obafemi who presided over the reported affairs of the literati:
“This debate has gone on very well and quite enlightening. I have learnt quite a lot from the various positions eloquently proffered here. I like to chip in this bit: (1) there will not be much ideological departure from PMB to BAT. We will still operate a neoliberal economy, fraught largely with parasitism and consumerism. It is very likely, from his experience in investment, creative commercialism/commodity consciousness and cosmopolitanism in governance, Tinubu will be a lot more distribution-prone, more productive, and more people friendly than his predecessor; (2) having operated in comprador praxis in the US, Tinubu will engage globalization with discretionary envisioning (these are loaded, unconventional concepts that may require greater elucidation in future; (3) having not operated unitarist governance strategy that we have had since Ironsi till date, and with his governance experience in Lagos, including standing up to OBJ to run a well-structured State in Lagos, BAT will be more of his own man who will surround himself with talent rather than a cabalistic instinct (I am talking here about power delegation as opposed to power relegation); (4) we have good reason to believe that Tinubu will not go for a winner-take-all, conclave-prone governance and will strive to deliver goods and services— democracy dividends more generously/humanely. May the future be better and more tolerable for our people and all of us in this country, and all our fellows and compatriots in foreign lands, that is, the diaspora.”
But the pastor-spirit as well as the track of traditional culture in him elicited from Professor Ademola Da Sylva what amounted to a kind of vote of thanks to Professor Olu Obafemi and the co-debaters in the literati.
“Many thanks, Baba O.O., for your thoughtful, clinical and lucid interventions; and IBK’s, (and others’) too! So palpable and infectious are the feelings of hope, and delight of the innocent, that you have demonstrated in your concluding postings, and my silent response was a loud A-m-e-n! Then I turned to God the Almighty, and said, “Baba-God, these genuine feelings expressed by these great minds, aggregate what is uppermost in the mind of the Nigerian people at this point of our history. Can you, please, do this one last favour for the masses of this country? I believe it is not beyond what you as the Almighty can do for an otherwise potentially great country like Nigeria! Simply protect BAT, from the powers that have constituted themselves into human principalities in the corridor of power; completely and permanently seal the mouths of those demonic lions labelled as Cabals in Aso Rock that have, thus far, truncated Nigeria’s destiny! AMEN!” Perhaps we should remind ourselves that our hope was this high when many Nigerian voters, including yours truly, trouped out to vote in Buhari as President! Now, I remember, “demonic forces” written about by Reuben Abati during the Presidency of GEJ, unfortunately, like some nameless hydra monsters they always rear their ugly heads with every new administration, these Aso Rock principalities. PMB has his good share of them in the Abakyaris, and very familiar ones, for obvious reasons, like the Ngiges, et al, never for once did they allow PMB to be! They took advantage of his visibly infirm state, to take over the reins of governance in what could be described as a “civilian coup” and ran-over the ship of the country crashing against the Aso rock! The reason we are where we are, right now! BAT like PMB, also has a visibly infirm visage/characteristic unless we pretend to not acknowledge it, a new set of cabalistic demons would join forces with the existing ones, after all, it is still the same Political Party, to take advantage of BAT’s current clinical status! BAT of 20 or 10 years ago, isn’t the same BAT today on account of age and health. Yes, unless God Almighty does something about these principalities through His human agents, they might yet soon take over the affairs of Nigeria under BAT too, to do what they know best: to steal, to kill and to destroy, and ensure that the status quo remains as it has always been, in the spirit of Ted Hughe’s very famous poem, ‘The Eagle’!”
Well, well said, O debaters. But let the columnist-terminator and terminator-columnist have the last word. The time won’t be long to ask INEC this simple question: Did INEC lavish allegedly over three hundred billion naira to register the paltry figure or number of voters for the 2023 elections? Did the very small number (below ninety or so million) match the more than very huge sum of money that INEC got for registration of voters and for other election related matters, duties and responsibilities? How much money in millions upon millions did not allegedly go under and distributed to “principalities” and “demonic forces” hovering over Aso Rock and the Presidency of the presidencynologists? Any clear or unclear answers to these questions cannot or may not but tell us that the presidential election in particular was INEC’s will. Our debating Professors will not say on oath that they did not know. Did the presidential and other elections meet the expectations, wishes and will of the people generally? INEC has the answer. And our debating professors will bluntly tell the chairman of INEC this.
Because our professors are fellow writers, I must terminate the discourse by drawing their attention to the following poem “For the Consideration of Poets” by Haki R. Madhubuti (original name Don Luther Lee), the 81 years old African-American poet, author and publisher, and a native of Little Rock, Arkansas:
where is the poetry of resistance,
the poetry of honorable defiance
unafraid of lies from career
politicians and business men,
not respectful of journalists who write
official speak void of educated thought
without double search or sub surface questions
that war talk demands?
where is the poetry of doubt and suspicion
not in the service of the state, bishops
not in the service of beautiful people
and late night promises,
not in the service of influence,
incompetence and academic
The above lines speak volumes. Let them stay glued to our memories day by day. And may INEC’s chairman become the poet and historian of resistance after finding time to read this!
Terminated for now.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
Iwuanyanwu And The ‘Political Rascals’ Rhetoric
By Promise Adiele
Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Waiting for Godot avails itself of multiple interpretative tools with a compelling grip on the moral imagination of the audience. As a timeless drama, it thrives on the hopelessness of the human condition dramatized by two vagabonds, Estragon and Vladimir who waited for a mysterious, titular Godot that never came. One of the features of the absurdist literary tradition portrayed in the play is the failure of language in the verbal context as a means of communication. The verbal exchange between the two vagabonds is evident of misinterpretation. One says one thing, the other interprets it differently. Thus, it calls to question the potency of language in the verbal medium as a means of communication. The preceding analogy reminds me of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and his purported insult to the good people of the Yoruba ethnic group. Perhaps, misinterpretation currently manifests as an inexorable content of Nigeria’s absurd credentials.
Last week, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, philanthropist, accomplished businessman, the Balogun Babaguwan of Yorubaland, Ahaejiejemba of Igboland and elder-statesman, while reacting to events that happened in Lagos during the last election when many Igbo people were bloodied and harassed, assured the world that “the Igbo and Yoruba are not at war”. On the heels of that statement came another one “they are Yoruba political rascals”. A syntactic analysis of the two sentences affirms that the Chief never meant to insult the entire Yoruba ethnic group. Rather, he was referring to rascals in Lagos who maimed, killed, and vanquished Igbos, non-Yorubas, and even some Yorubas with Igbo semblance, stopping them from exercising their voting rights during the election. He also said “we know them and we will deal with them”. Language scholars know that Chief Iwuanyanwu did not mean to insult the Yoruba. Sadly, some social nitwits, victims of acute cognitive impairment, went on a rampage to misinterpret and manipulate his statement to suit their treacherous, mischievous purposes. It is absurd.
Anyone who knows Chief Iwuaynanwu’s antecedent will never ascribe offensive rhetoric to him. He is soft-spoken, conciliatory and peace-loving. Like every sensible person around the world, not just the Igbo, he was aghast with lurid photos and video evidence of harm against the Igbo in Lagos during the last election. Unfortunately, people who ordinarily frolic in the whirlwind of ethnic hate have seized the opportunity to insult the Igbo ethnic group while using acerbic words on the revered Chief. These people, in their degenerate and diseased mentality, are trying to install a wall of hate between the Igbo and Yoruba. Let me state categorically that the Yorubas are wonderful people whose spirit of brotherliness, conviviality, and tolerance speaks volumes across the world. I have maintained over time that the Igbo and Yoruba share a cordial, interwoven relationship in marriage, business, friendship, association and neighbourliness. The two ethnic groups can never be involved in a conflict. Many Yoruba people have helped many Igbo people to their destinies and many Igbo people have helped many Yoruba people to their destinies too. An attempt for one ethnic group to harm the other will result in serious harm for the two. It is as implicating as that.
Since the presidential elections, keenly contested by different candidates from different ethnic groups in Nigeria, some people have desperately sought to reduce the entire development to an ethnic affair. It is myopic and at once condescending. Does Peter Obi represent the Igbo? Does Bola Tinubu represent the Yoruba? Does Atiku Abubakar represent the Hausa/Fulani? These candidates all have supporters across the country. Of course, they will have a preponderance of support from their ethnic base. That is the way of politics. Unfortunately, ethnic jingoists have, in the inerrancy of their bleak convictions, reduced the entire political discourse to an ethnic affair especially Yoruba vs Igbo. These people, stranded in the realm of ethnic hate and communal intolerance, have done everything within their powers to inflame ethnic tension to crucible dimensions. It is wrong for anyone to insult a whole ethnic group in whatever guise. In Chief Iwuanyanwu’s case, he has put the records straight by clarifying what he meant, insisting that he was quoted out of context. But the morbid and decadent will not hear of it. They insist that Iwuanyanwu and all Igbo should be roasted alive. As far as these simpletons are concerned, the Chief spoke the mind of all Igbos. How idiotic and harebrained can anybody be?
Recently, some people have also indulged in ethnic slurs. Unlike Chief Iwuanyanwu that clarified himself, Bayo Onanuga offered no apology and insisted on standing by his words. Onanuga spoke for himself and couldn’t have insulted the Igbo on behalf of the Yoruba. MC Oluomo, while registering his socio-political disorientation, spoke for himself when he threatened the Igbo on an election day and went on to make good his threat which the police shamelessly called a joke. FFK has also made inflammatory remarks which were his personal opinion and not the opinion of Yoruba. It is therefore, a function of disabled, primitive awareness for anyone to insult an ethnic group based on the comment of one person. Such insults and abuses expose the quiddity of phenomenal foolishness which, hitherto, was concealed in some people by the façade of education. No, these hate mongers belong to the stone age. Nobody should be deceived by their pretentious liberalism.
The question is, are there political rascals in Nigeria? Definitely yes! These are the particular people Chief Iwuanyanwu referred to concerning what happened in Lagos during the last elections. Of course, all parts of the country have their share of political rascals. It is not peculiar to one ethnicity. Political rascals are those who walk the streets, snatch ballot boxes, stab people due to their ethnic origin and prevent them from exercising their civic rights. They are not educated. They are thugs, street urchins and never-do-wells employed by politicians to advance nefarious objectives. There are also some educated political rascals. They don’t walk the streets, but demonstrate humane deficiency of unimaginable proportions using social media and sundry news outlets. They spread hate, provoke enmity and fan the embers of war. They incite the uneducated, urging them to bay for the blood of ordinary citizens. Their social media handles are replete with expletives and insults. Abusive engagement allows them to flourish. Another category of political rascals populate government establishments like INEC, the Police and different security agencies. These people compromise the electoral process in exchange for financial inducement and material gains. They are unconscionable, desperate and invidious. Are these people from another planet? No, they are among us. We know them.
The ethnic hate narrative is a device enunciated by the political class to keep the people divided, breaking their rank and file to unite and fight a common enemy. The opposition LP and PDP are convinced that the election was marred by sharp, underhand practices and therefore have gone to court. Is going to court to challenge the outcome of an election a legitimate practice? If it is, why can’t detractors of equitable process allow the law to run smoothly? The call by some decidedly frustrated fellows in search of relevance and pecuniary patronage for the arrest of the opposition presidential candidates is from the pit of purgatory. The propaganda that there is a plan to disrupt the handover ceremony is a bundle of falsehood from the depths of Hades. Although many Nigerians regard the judiciary with a pinch of salt, people of goodwill should advocate for a peaceful resolution of Nigeria’s political challenges. Ethnic rhetoric should stop immediately. People should sheath their swords. Let us all close the road to Rwanda.
Adiele, PhD, writes from Mountain Top University.
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